PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Since Hartley King bought his first restaurant in North Versailles in 1966, his Kings Restaurant chain has become a family fixture in this area.
“It’s a homey feeling, which you don’t get at a lot of chains,” said Pat Pittore of Carnegie as she exited the restaurant.
But now sources tell KDKA money editor Jon Delano that King has sold his 30 restaurants to Kelly Capital, a private equity firm in San Diego, Calif.
“They don’t seem to be the ones that are completely closing places very quickly. It seems like they are really focusing on changing the operations,” observed Point Park University business professor Dr. Elaine Luther.
Luther says Kelly Capital has had a portfolio of real estate, restaurants, and other companies, some of which they turn around and sell and others that they continue to operate.
The early word is that the Pittsburgh area restaurants will undergo a makeover with upgrades.
Sources tell KDKA the new California owner will keep the Kings Restaurant name.
While the 2,000 Kings employees have been asked to reapply for work, most will keep their jobs.
But there will be a menu change in the near future — a brand new menu — and that means the likely loss of the iconic Frownie Brownie.
Some customers worry that Kings will lose its Pittsburgh appeal.
“I would like it to stay local,” says Sue Wolf of Bethel Park.
“This place from San Diego — they’ll be having turkey wraps and the price will go up and people around here won’t be able to afford to come here anymore. That’s kind of sad,” adds Bonnie Smith of Upper St. Clair.
But Kelly Capital’s marketing firm tells KDKA the company wants to build on the success of Kings Family Restaurants and maintain its Pittsburgh roots.